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432                  HISTORY OF PERSIA                  CHAP.
against the elusive Turkoman. In 1837, however, he
mustered his army at Shahrud and marched through
Khorasan into the Herat province. Forewarned of the
impending storm, Yar Mohamed Khan had collected a large
proportion of the crops into the city and had destroyed
the remainder. He also burned every village situated
within twelve miles of Herat. Ten thousand horsemen
were instructed to keep the field and harass the enemy,
and the various strongholds in the province were
garrisoned. The ramparts were repaired and the ditch
was cleaned out and deepened. But the greatest asset of
all was a young English artillery officer, Eldred Pottinger>
who, arriving in disguise, revealed his identity and soon
became the life and soul of the defence, and saved the
city from its assailants. Incidentally Potthiger raised
the prestige of Great Britain in Central Asia, and the
Khan of Khiva informed Major Abbot, whom we shall
meet later on, that the gallantry of that officer was his
first introduction to the British, of whom he had never
previously heard.
The Persian army arrived before Herat in November
and operations began almost immediately. Foraging parties
committed every possible atrocity, and the Shah, to show
the spirit in which he was waging war, ordered the first
prisoner to be bayoneted in his presence. About a
month after the commencement of the siege one of the
bastions was taken, but it was soon retaken, and during
the winter operations dragged on month after month
with no decisive results, the Persian generals working
entirely independently of one another and each being
rather pleased if a rival general was defeated.
In the spring of 1838 Mr. (afterwards Sir John)
McNeill, the British Minister, arrived in the Persian
camp and attempted to persuade the disheartened Shah to
break off the siege. At the monarch's request he entered
Herat and drew up an agreement with Yar Mohamed Khan
on behalf of Mohamed Shah. Unfortunately Count
Simonich, the Russian Envoy, arrived at this juncture
and offered the services of a Russian officer. The Shah,
like a true son of Iran, hoped everything from the new-